This winter, Formstack gave me the unique opportunity to work abroad while I traveled throughout Southeast Asia. (Check the featured image! That’s me working beach-side in Phuket via tethered internet service.) Five years ago this would be an extraordinary situation, but now as more and more companies embrace remote working, I think we will see more opportunities like this for remote workers.
But to work/travel abroad safely and efficiently, there are many things that you need to do to make it a success. Here’s a list of the things I found most helpful and important (many of them learned the hard way!).
- Immunizations: Depending on where you go, you might need to get shots. Consult with a travel clinic to see if where you are traveling is at risk. Getting immunizations be expensive, but well worth the peace of mind.
- Travel Visas: Check to see if your destination requires a travel visa to enter the country.
- Travel Insurance: When it comes to travel insurance, you’re better safe than sorry. It’s surprisingly cheap, and I actually needed it, so I’m really glad I made the small investment. Check out Insure My Trip and Allianz for some quotes.
Backups and Directions
- Documents and cards backup: Take pictures of your credit cards and identification and upload it to Google Drive or Dropbox so you can have online backups of your most important docs. Be sure to delete the pictures from your phone though!
- Backup work files: Good idea to do this regularly. But if not, at least do it before you take the big leap across the ocean.
- Print directions in LOCAL languages: This is extremely important if you go to another country with a different alphabet (Russia, Asia, Middle East). Even Google Maps was mostly useless as they display street names in the Roman alphabet. I found the best thing was just to write down an area of town and address in their language.
Things to Bring
- Daypack: Go with functionality over fashion when it comes to your bag. You’ll be wearing it everywhere and toting not only laptop, but your camera, guidebooks, power cords, etc. Get one that has a breathable back if you’re in a tropical environment and has flaps that cover the main access points so you don’t have to worry about pick-pockets.
- Power adapter: If you’re hopping around from country to country, you need to be prepared for changing power outlets. This one from REI is great, because not only it small and lightweight, it can adjust to handle three-prong laptop power cords.
- Mobile Battery Charger: This one saved me a few times. Because you’re constantly looking at your phone for directions and information, your phone battery will drain much faster than you think. Don’t be caught without power anywhere.
- SIM Card: A new SIM card for your phone is extremely important, especially if you’re anywhere but Europe, for it allows you to have continuous internet connection through your mobile device. You don’t need to worry about getting lost since you have Google Maps and you can always contact your hotel, coworking space, or contacts with email.
T-Mobile offers an awesome international plan to avoid roaming charges in other countries. But if you want to keep your current plan, you can buy a tourist SIM card in another country (usually cheaper) and swap your card out. Or you can buy an international SIM card before you leave. Here’s a good International SIM Card guide. If you get another SIM card, be sure to “Suspend Your Service” of your current plan so you don’t have to pay for unused cell phone service back home.
PRO TIP: Depending on where you are, and if you can get unlimited data on your SIM card’s plan, you can tether your laptop to your phone and get internet through the mobile service. Now anyplace with a cellphone reception (ie beach, hillside, scenic overlook) is a potential workplace. BOOM: instant game-changer.
Communication Tips for International Remote Working
- Make a travel schedule: I made a Google calendar to share with the Formstack team. Things will change, but at least they have an idea of where you are.
- Find your time overlap: The furthest apart you can be anywhere in the world time-wise is 12 hours. So you should have at least some time overlaps in your day when you’re awake. You may have to be outside your typical work schedule, but sometimes that works to your advantage in a foreign country.
In Thailand, I was 12 hours ahead of my coworkers. To be apart of important early week meetings, I’d often be working 7pm to midnight just so I could participate in video chats and be tuned in to what the team was working on. However, this 5 hours in the evening gave me ample time in the morning to enjoy the city I was in and do some sightseeing during the day.
Have you ever participated in an international remote working trip? What were some of the lessons you learned? What essentials did you need? Let’s talk in the comments below!